Coronavirus (copy)

A South Dakota resident who recently stayed at Bay Island Condominiums in South Pasadena died of coronavirus less than two weeks after returning home.

SOUTH PASADENA — A South Dakota resident who recently stayed at Bay Island Condominiums in South Pasadena died of coronavirus less than two weeks after returning home.

The individual stayed in the Lexington Building for three weeks and returned to South Dakota on March 7, Keri Palmer, the community association manager who works for FirstService Residential, the property management company that oversees Bay Island, told residents in a March 18 email acquired by TBN.

Owners of the unit where the individual stayed were advised March 17 that South Dakota ruled the guest’s passing as related to COVID-19, she added. Though two initial tests for coronavirus were negative, “a third came back presumed positive.”

She wrote to members of the condo's Sun Island homeowners association that “Sun Island has been informed that the guest did not go to the pool, clubhouse or socialize outside of the unit, except to go on the owners’ boat. The guest spent part of the time he was here in Florida in Key West. As a precaution, the owners and a neighbor who had come over to visit with the guest have been self-quarantined since March 10. Their 14-day quarantine will end on Saturday, March 21. None of the quarantined individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, and there is no evidence that other residents of Sun Island are at risk. However, because the well-being and safety of the community is of the utmost importance, all residents should practice social distancing and follow all guidelines announced by State, Local and CDC officials.”

Lillian Guerrero, vice president marketing and communications for FirstService, provided a statement regarding the coronavirus case to TBN.

“The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is something we take very seriously,” she wrote in a March 20 email. “We are upholding our responsibility for the communities we manage to notify those impacted by this situation. As their trusted partner, we do not comment on issues that may infringe on the privacy of those who live and work in these communities.”

FirstService also manages ONE St. Petersburg, a new luxury condo development in downtown St. Petersburg. A resident there has also reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.

When TBN called the main office at Bay Island to ask if an individual with coronavirus had stayed at the condominium complex, a woman said, “This is not correct. We are not commenting.”

When asked if FirstService was aware that the South Dakota resident had coronavirus before learning about his death, Guerrero wrote in an email, “I’m sure you can appreciate our obligation to protect the privacy of everyone affected.”

Ben Thomas, a city commissioner who also lives at Bay Island and serves as president of the homeowners’ association, said that the unit owners first contacted the property manager about their guest’s illness March 10.

“The family has been very proactive. They’ve worked with the (property) manager since day one,” he said. “As soon as they found out, they told us.”

He said Palmer contacted the family every day since they initially reached out.

“We were waiting to confirm the diagnosis, which we never really did,” Thomas said. “We determined early on that we weren’t going to distribute rumors or any information we couldn’t verify. We were waiting for verification before we told everyone. We were trying to be honest and truthful, not being in a theater yelling fire without knowing if we had a fire.”

City of South Pasadena staff and leaders expressed concern about the situation in a series of emails.

Mayor Arthur Penny, who lives at Bay Island, forwarded Palmer’s email to City Clerk Carley Lewis on March 18. He also later questioned whether the Centers for Disease Control or area medical professionals were contacted about the case and asked why the city wasn’t notified that residents had been exposed to coronavirus.

Lewis responded to his March 18 email, writing, “We definitely need to get more information on this. I’m not sure how a 14-day quarantine that began on March 10 is supposed to end on March 21.”

In a March 19 email to Penny and Lewis, David Mixson, fire chief and director of public safety, said he had reached out to a contact at the state Department of Health.

“I went over the situation described in the email you received with her (the DOH official). She state(d) that while it would not be impossible for the people who came in contact with the deceased to become ill, at this point it would be highly unlikely,” he wrote. “This is based on the fact that the deceased left our area on March 7 and those that were in direct contact have started self-isolation procedures.”

In additional emails sent March 19, Mixson informed the mayor and city clerk that he had also spoken to Palmer by phone.

“There is not much new information to share. They have three residents in self-isolation based on the date of the deceased departure which was March 7,” he wrote. “To date, none of the three in isolation have developed any signs or symptoms of an infection. All residents do live on the ground floor so no elevator or stairwells would have been used.”

He added, “Since they are not confirmed cases, we should not expect to hear anything from (the Florida Department of Health.) It sounds like they are doing the right thing by self-isolating and protecting their neighbors. When I spoke to DOH this morning, they felt transmission at this time was highly unlikely.”

Thomas said, “To the best of our knowledge, no one in the resident family has come up with the virus. Everyone is well.”

The Bay Island HOA held an emergency meeting March 20, where it announced they would shut down all amenities “to keep people from gathering together,” he added. “We have done our absolute best to do what we thought was best for our people, our residents here."